Cancer takes Bristol youth; help sought for family

BRISTOL — The pain is inconceivable.
While other moms throughout the nation were being celebrated by their children this past Sunday, Mother’s Day, Katie Gorton was pressing her ear to her 15-year-old son Jacob’s chest to hear his heart beat for the last time.
Now the Gorton family is bringing Jacob home to Bristol from St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where he had been receiving treatment following his second bone marrow transplant to fight the T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (T-cell ALL) with which he had been diagnosed back in 2012. They return proud of their beloved son’s courageous battle, but poised to take on a new foe: Crushing debt incurred from Jacob’s medical expenses, some lapsed mortgage payments and a loss of income sustained as a result of spending as much time as possible with their son, up to the very end.
“It was all worth being here with him,” Katie said during a brief phone conversation, struggling to speak through sobs. “He was so amazing, such an inspiration.”
She recalled how Jacob, after his initial diagnosis, would take chemo treatments and then summon up the energy to go to school and play soccer. Prior to his diagnosis, Jacob was a wrestling state champ, Little League pitcher, avid soccer player and hunter. He went into remission, but quickly relapsed and spent the entire summer of 2013 in the hospital.
Jacob persevered and went into remission for a second time, followed by a bone marrow transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital. But 100 days into the transplant, he relapsed again.
It was at that point that Jacob was given three months to live, his parents recalled.
“Although the prognosis was grim, he was not ready to give up,” reads a “Giveforward” website established on the youth’s behalf to give updates on his medical condition and receive financial assistance for the family.
“To his doctors’ amazement, Jacob went into remission for a third time.”
This past November, Jacob was accepted into a research study at St. Jude’s in Memphis, where he received a second bone marrow transplant — courtesy of his dad, Jackie Gorton Sr. —  in hopes for a cure. Jacob was only the fifth child to participate in the study, and the only one with T-cell ALL.
Katie explained that Jacob had to be given medications following the bone marrow transplant that had the effect of weakening his immune system. Tragically, he contracted some infections, including a fungus that had migrated into his liver and lungs, according to Katie. Jacob’s lungs could not keep up. May 2 was the last time Jacob was able to speak with his family. He passed away at around 12:40 p.m. on May 10, with his parents and two brothers, Jackie Jr., 17, and Hunter, 11, at his side.
Jacob’s remains will be cremated. A service is planned for this Sunday, May 17, beginning at 2 p.m., in the Bristol Federated Church on North Street. Following the service, participants will be invited to gather for conversation and refreshments in the lower level of the church.
Folks interested in helping the family financially can do so by logging on to www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/nyz6/jacob-gorton-s-fight-against-leukemia. People can also send checks, made out to Jacob Gorton, to the Gortons at 10 Lawson Lane, Bristol, VT 05443.
Katie is grateful for the support and good wishes the family continues to receive. She believes it is a fitting tribute to Jacob.
“Jacob was my sweat pea,” she said. “I was very lucky to call him my son.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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